Home > The Lights on Knockbridge Lane(3)

The Lights on Knockbridge Lane(3)
Author: Roan Parrish

   It took ages, but after several more rings and some angry knocking, the door creaked open and Wes Mobray peered out, looking very confused.

   “You!” Adam accused with a practiced pointer finger to Wes’ face. “Put a tarantula in my daughter’s face?!”

   “She broke into my house,” he said simply.

   “I don’t care. You do not shove poisonous, terrifying—” Adam shuddered “—creepy spiders in children’s faces!”

   “You’re scared of spiders.”

   The man’s infuriatingly handsome face quirked with the hint of a smile. Adam felt parts of himself turn just the tiniest bit to stone. He squared his shoulders and drew himself up to his full (admittedly not terribly imposing) height.

   He looked Westley Mobray dead in his rather beautiful eyes and said firmly and with utter conviction: “Yes. I am terrified of them.”

 

 

Chapter Two


   Adam


   Adam’s younger sibling, River, was a literal angel.

   “You,” Adam told them, “are a literal angel.”

   They rolled their eyes but looked pleased.

   Adam had grown up in Garnet Run, but left for Boulder, Colorado as soon as he turned eighteen. He left partly to escape his parents and partly because Garnet Run felt small and isolated and conservative, and yeah, okay, partly because he met the new boy in town and followed him, thinking they’d be together forever, like in the swoony old Hollywood romances that his grandmother favored.

   And they were together, for a while.

   But when he and Mason divorced, there was no way Adam could stay in Boulder. No way he could take care of Gus by himself on a freelance photographer’s salary, and no way he could work a full-time job without childcare, which, of course, he couldn’t afford.

   River was the main reason he’d decided to move back. They loved Gus and when Adam called them to tell them it was over with Mason, the first thing they said—even before Sorry—was I’m here to help.

   It had made Adam cry then and it still made him a little misty now. River was only twenty, but already a lifesaver. It helped that Gus adored them right back.

   River had gotten Adam a job at a local hardware store through their friend Rye. And every day, they picked Gus up from school and stayed with her for an hour until Adam got home from work.

   He’d tried to pay them the first three days and they’d turned him down flat. Yesterday, they’d told him to stop offering. Today, before he could open his mouth, they clapped their hand over it, and said, “Shh.”

   Seriously: angel.

   “How’s the kitten biz?” Adam asked.

   River’s eyes lit up. They worked as the manager of The Dirt Road Cat Shelter. River’d always loved animals so it was a dream job.

   Before Adam knew it, they’d pushed their phone into his hand and were scrolling through pictures and videos of utterly adorable kittens and cats, introducing them to him and describing their antics.

   “I should bring Gus by someday to see all the kitties,” he mused.

   “You can,” River said. “But I don’t think she’s that interested in cats.”

   The child in question came into the kitchen then, wearing her hangry face, and Adam jumped up to start dinner.

   “You staying?” he asked River.

   They shook their head and kissed him on the cheek. “Gotta run.”

   “Thank you!” Adam called after them, putting water on to boil.

   Gus pouted and slumped against the counter dramatically.

   “What’s up, baby?”

   “Nothing,” she sighed.

   “How’s school?”

   “Stupid.”

   “You know I don’t like that word,” he told her gently. “Can you be more specific?”

   “I already did this science lesson at home,” she said dejectedly.

   Adam winced. Home meant back in Boulder.

   “And everyone is boring.”

   He wanted so badly to tell her it wasn’t true. That there were kids here who could be her best friends if she’d let them.

   But he remembered too well being the odd one out in elementary school. (Not to mention middle school and high school.) He remembered how lonely it felt when other kids weren’t interested in the same things. When they thought you were weird.

   “Maybe if you talk to them about things you’re interested in, you’ll make them interested too,” he offered.

   Gus thought about that.

   “Maybe,” she reluctantly allowed. After a minute, her eyes lit with excitement in a way that warmed Adam’s heart—and then made him suspicious. “Be back,” she murmured, and ran to her room.

 

* * *

 

   “I need to put this in Mr. Wes’ mailbox,” Gus informed Adam the next morning as they left for school.

   She held up a construction paper packet sealed with so many stickers they were overlapping like tape. It said IMPORTANT on it in all caps red marker.

   Adam opened the mailbox so she could shove the sticky package inside, wondering if he should’ve asked to know what it was first. But since he was certain it wasn’t a bomb or anything dangerous—okay, like, ninety-nine percent certain—he let Gus have her privacy.

   Well, ninety-five percent.

   “What was that, baby?” he asked casually.

   “Secret,” she said.

   “It isn’t, um, anything he won’t like, is it?” Or anything on the FBI watch list?

   “No,” she said with certainty. “He will definitely like it.”

 

* * *

 

   Gus was sulking when Adam got home from work.

   “What happened?” he asked River.

   They shrugged. “She looked in the mailbox like five times but wouldn’t say what she was looking for.”

   At dinner, Gus picked at her food.

   “He didn’t write back,” she said finally, looking dejected.

   “Wes?”

   She nodded and Adam’s heart broke. He wanted to strangle their neighbor. He wanted to punch the hell out of him for causing his kid one second of pain. Obviously, he would do neither, since it was totally reasonable not to immediately respond to a strange kid within twelve hours of receiving a mysterious marker-scrawled missive.

   “Maybe he didn’t check his mail yet,” he offered. “Not everyone checks quite as often as you do.” Especially if they only go out at night and are busy hunting for animals to sacrifice to the devil. Adam amused himself.

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